THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF SCIENCE 21.11.2010
Entitled “The Changing Landscape of Science: Challenges and Opportunities”, the 2011 World Science Forum has now begun to take shape for the fifth time, organised by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in co-operation with UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
WSF’ Steering Committee, a board of scientific experts, discussed the main theme of the upcoming Forum, along with the potential topics of the lectures and seminars at a recent meeting in Budapest. Headed by HAS’ President, the Steering Committee consists of chief officers of UNESCO and ICSU, the Director General of AAAS, three Nobel Laureates, the President of the Brazil Academy of Sciences, the President of the Science Council of Japan, and the President of the European Academies Science Advisory Council. The recommendations of the Committee reflect some of the answers the international science community is giving to the ever-changing external and internal circumstances in which scientific research is conducted in the 21st century: new scientific superpowers have appeared recently, and still appear today, new branches of science and new research topics have emerged, and there is no doubt that science makers have very little time finding effective answers to such pressing questions of 21st century societies as e.g. overpopulation.
Hungary’s intention is to establish fruitful scientific co-operation and discussions with the rising superpowers of science and technology: Brazil, China, India, Korea, and Singapore. Beside these countries, it’s of special importance that Africa and the Arabic states also receive appropriate emphasis during WSF.
The Brazilian Academy of Sciences took a special role in the work of the Steering Committee. The South-American state contributes to the success of the Forum as a co-organizer, and breaking with traditions, the 2013 World Science Forum will be held in Brazil. The Steering Committee supported the initiative of HAS’ President on having every second Forum, i.e. every fourth year, organised and held by a different host city. Linked to the Hungarian capital, every other World Science Forum would still be organised and run by Budapest. UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova and the NobelPrize Laureate, ICSU president Yuan Tseh Lee have already assured József Pálinkás of their support for the renewal of World Science Forum originally launched by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1999.
All over the world, highly significant changes are occurring very rapidly in certain areas of science. Although subjects of hot scientific debate, such scientific disciplines as stem cell research and synthetic biology cannot be ignored any more. Topics such as production and consumption of genetically modified crops divide the scientific community. WSF is intended to cover this latter, highly sensitive topic by inviting countries that have experiences in the production and usage of genetically modified organisms to take part in the discussions. Among those states are Brazil, China, South Africa, and India.
Beside the new disciplines of nanotechnology and system biology emerging from science’s own inner development, topics with a great impact on the future of mankind also command our attention: food security, energy consumption, or the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases. Negotiations have begun about inviting an internationally influential politician known to have promoted discussion between science and politics to the World Science Forum.
The geographical changes on the map of science and the appearance of new scientific areas increase the responsibility of those giving evidence-based advice in public issues and decisions affecting members of a society. Because of this, the Steering Committee of the 2011 World Science Forum puts extra emphasis on promoting discussions between scientists and politicians. Well-known scientists who could help in this process will be invited to participate in the Policy Implications and Drivers session, thus making World Science Forum a platform for the convergence of different viewpoints and opinions. A general introductory address on the geographically and thematically changing landscape of science will be delivered by Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, chair of the Royal Society’s Counseling Board which analyzes and summarizes universally significant scientific issues. The Steering Committee also suggested that a Finnish expert should be invited to share his country’s experiences on science education reform. Finland has been the only country in the world so far that has succeeded in overcoming the shortage of a new supply of young scientists, a symptom so prevalent in Europe and America, due to a lack of finances and the dramatically decreasing quality of teachers’ education.
The renewed WSF, in which the German Leopoldina Academy also expressed her interest, is going to be an opportunity to strengthen Hungary’s image in one of the most influential world-event of scientists and science policy makers.